Picked Clean … Again

What more can I or do I need to say?

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Greatly To Be Praised

Because I know how the scenario ends, I find it difficult to focus on the events of Holy Week with a somber face and attitude.

In the same vein, I could only view the film The Passion of the Christ a single time. That one viewing brought into full view the significance of Bible passages like Isaiah 53:5 “… he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities … by his scourging we are healed.” Viewing the film once was all that was necessary for my personal clarity.

As I was contemplating today’s post, I viewed a video that gave a moving reminder of how great our God is. With the marvelous setting and stunningly beautiful music, it was (for me) four minutes of worship.

I have posted on this blog more than a few posts relating my love and ecstatic enjoyment of music. For today’s nod to National Poetry Month, the poem below obliquely references two friends of Jesus (Mary and Martha) and speaks to my personal Mary (eager to be at the feet of Jesus) and Martha (distracted by the cares of the world) tendencies. Music reminds me about the One who matters most.

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A Life On Loan

bildeAfter the most recent shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, one of the base soldiers told of his experience being barricaded behind a door with fourteen others as the rampaging shooter attempted to enter this space to continue his violence. In that room, First Lt. Patrick Cook feared for his life and also the lives of others hunkered down with him.

One soldier bravely placed himself at the door to block the shooter’s access; though this soldier was mortally wounded, his effort prevented the shooter from entering. Cook says: This Soldier’s name was Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson, and his sacrifice loaned me the rest of my life to tell this story.”

Sergeant Ferguson’s selfless act models the love spoken of in John 15:13:  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

Think about someone dying in your place. How do you think you’d feel?

It’s an act of uncommon courage, laying down one’s life for a friend. I know such an act boggles my mind. I think of myself as the one who would probably cower in a corner (hiding from an assailant), the one who will likely claw my way off my deathbed because I’m ready to die but not today. In theory, I’d like to say I’d lay down my life for a friend, but in actuality? I’m not that bold.

In Romans 5, Paul makes the argument that for a righteous man − and maybe even for an ordinarily good man − one might sacrifice one’s life, but such self-sacrifice is remarkable. Paul contrasts the unusual act of self-sacrifice (in verse 8) to God proving His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

holyweekToday marks the beginning of what many people know as Holy Week, a period recounted in each of the Gospels during which Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem and prepared to die.

Imagine the scene …

The crowds were jubilant as they welcomed Jesus into the city! He rode on a donkey colt and the throng threw down palm branches and their cloaks into the dusty street to honor Jesus. (One of the religious leaders considered this display embarrassing, showy, inappropriate to honor a lowly Nazarene.) Hosanna! Hosanna! they shouted. Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Jesus didn’t discourage their celebration. He told the religious leader if the people became silent, even the “stones will cry out.”

The masses had seen and heard about Jesus performing miracles − turning water into wine, raising Lazarus from the dead, healing sick people (a leper, the lame, crippled, blind, mute). A king they wanted and Jesus surely had the dynamism to draw these crowds for what they hoped was a reset from the Roman rule under which they’d suffered. Read the details here. The crowds shouted a different message once they realized Jesus had come not to overthrow the Romans, but to die.

Because Sergeant Ferguson died on his behalf, First Lt. Cook maintains his life is now on loan. Who among us would actually be willing to die for a friend … even a very good one, a person whose character qualities were impeccable and worthy of admiration? Which of us would step forward (as Ferguson did) to take his or her place?

An ancient poem written and translated many times and by many authors is O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. Once attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, some think it’s the work of another writer. One particular verse says: Mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the deadly pain … a Friend dying in another’s place, a life now on loan. The verse reproduced below also references the impact of knowing one’s life is on loan.

OSacredHead

 

First Lt. Cook’s perspective parallels my own; in considering Holy Week, I’ve experienced the sacrifice of a Friend, Jesus, dying in my place. How about you?

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I Yam What I Yam!

poetrycoverContinuing to mark National Poetry Month with today’s post, I decided to address poetry specifically before eventually posting today’s poem. My new friend and fellow-blogger over at themaskedrabbitsblog posed a terrific question in her comment on my post from two days ago. (She also gave me a superb compliment − “I love your poems” − which of course is even more endearing!) I’m reproducing her comment below for your convenience in reading.

First of all, Bunny, it’s not a silly question and I appreciate your candor. (For readers who haven’t checked out Bunny’s blog, I love it! On the About page, Bunny describes herself as someone with “… a soft heart and a scratchy exterior.” Such refreshing honesty! That vulnerability runs through her posts and is conveyed via a warm and lively writing style.)

Where do I start with Bunny’s question? I begin with the exact time when I first learned to write (kindergarten? first grade?). The potential to communicate and choose particular words for the most precise meaning came to me early. Once I could move from verbal to written communication, I knew I’d tapped into POWER! There was a sense, a self-evident sense, that I am a writer. (“I think, therefore I am.” from my namesake, René Descartes.) In those elementary school years, I was already writing poetry, but I didn’t (at that time) consider myself a poet, just a writer.

By the time I reached high school, I had begun my first novel. I was a junior or senior when I participated with ten or twelve classmates in a Creative Writing class. It was an unusual class for the time because we weren’t required to stay in the classroom. As long as we were working on our writing assignments, the teacher gave us freedom to write wherever we chose. I continued working on my novel and other class assignments.

I took an extended hiatus from writing after high school, a period that lasted until after my children came along. I didn’t stop creating and there was always something to be written or edited, but mostly, I read, devouring stacks of books. When I nursed a baby, I’d hold the child with one arm and a book in my free hand. When the children were at T-ball, I’d sit in the bleachers reading a book. Many of the classics I hadn’t read during childhood were enjoyed while I was attending an event but free to remove myself mentally and concentrate on reading.

As the children grew, my longing to recapture my avocation resurfaced. At that point, I had ceased calling myself a writer; it was a hobby, a favorite pastime. This was mid-70s and through the 80s, a time when production and success established one’s bona fides. For a writer, production and success meant circulating multiple pieces to multiple publishers and actually being published. I could claim neither … so I accepted the conventional judgment, believing and admitting I wasn’t a writer.

But I knew in my heart I was.

Over the years, I did achieve publication in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I earned income doing free-lance work on assignment, submitting over-the-transom pieces from time to time, and I continued to work on personal projects. (There’s a concept from the dark ages! I’m not even sure writers make “over-the-transom” submissions any more!)

Turning a corner, in 2010 my younger daughter urged me to begin a blog (yes, this one). Previously, I’d avoided blogs with the excuse, “I want to r-e-a-l-l-y write, not just blog.” So my early efforts on this blog were half-hearted at best.

My daughter knows I’m a writer, just as I knew, but my production track record suffered hit and miss. At the time, I was mostly writing poetry and distraction came in a variety of ways. Further, only a few pieces of my poetry were deemed (by me) worthy of publication. I still didn’t think of myself as a poet.

Younger daughter and I often talk writing. (She’s talented and knows so much more than me!) We were talking poetry one day and I related to her my pleasure at having some focused writing time. I admitted a sense of inadequacy as a writer, because no matter how much poetry energized me, I told her, I’m not a poet! Without a moment’s hesitation, my daughter replied, “What are you talking about? I’ve always known you were a poet!”

Her words stunned me. Immediately, I recognized the truth of her statement, this daughter who somehow understands me better than I understand myself.

I am a poet! I AM A POET! I’d never have made that assertion a year ago. Yes, I’ve written plenty of poetry but rarely considered it worthy. (In truth, I have produced my share of drivel.) Still, I know with certainty that I’m maturing as a writer and poet. Even a subjective assessment tells me I’m a better poet today than I was a year ago … and certainly better than ten years ago. I’m comfortable today in asserting I am a poet.

Probably the most significant thing I’ve learned (only in the last year) is transparency, being open to invite others in, allowing others access to my poetry. That’s a huge step for me because I’ve spent my life wanting to be a home run hitter! Yet I’m forced to acknowledge the majority of my poems fall short. In a move that surprises even me, I’m posting poems I never intended to share!

Which brings me to this post’s poem, written in free verse with occasional rhyme. I was never able to craft this poem as I’d hoped. The nugget was there but it lacked … what?! Some quality I’m still trying to figure out!

Nevertheless, the poem addresses Bunny’s question. We set self-imposed limits on our art, including a reluctance to own the name poet. Have you been published? Is that the sine qua non for a writer? A poet? Who established that rule? Furthermore, why should we accept the rule as definitive?

Legacy

A book from 2011 was titled Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow. While there’s little money in writing poetry, the first half of that title is an excellent guideline. Do you love writing poetry? Do it then. Develop your craft, strive to become the best you can be at it. Don’t concern yourself with labels. Eventually, someone will look at you and exclaim, “You’re a poet!” You can smile back and nod, “Yes, I am.”

An insistent little voice in your head will add:  “See? How could you ever have doubted?”

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Not In My Backyard!

NPM1Are you ready for a Frivolous Friday? To continue my observance of National Poetry Month, I chose a more lighthearted poem for today’s post.

Earlier this week, my daughter-in-law had placed an old claw-foot bathtub in front of her business with a FREE sign attached to it. When she first found the tub (early in her marriage), she was excited to purchase it for a hefty sum and hopeful she’d eventually find a house where she could use it in her decor. For several years, the tub sat in our barn but then she hauled it out to use as an front-porch fixture at her vintage store.

As the years have gone by, the heavy porcelain tub became less of an interesting fixture and more of an annoyance, so she finally decided she’d had enough. Once she turned the item into a freebie, a number of locals expressed hopes to claim it but the tub’s weight meant whoever claimed it was going to need a truck and some strong backs in order to haul it off. Thankfully, it was gone when DIL arrived at her shop on Monday morning.

I’ve posted before about what I consider the absurdity of yard and garden ornaments that were once fixtures inside someone’s house. Today’s post approaches this oddity with a different spin than the February 2nd post. (If memory serves me, Bowl Role and this poem were written about the same time.) I’m still astounded at the creative repurposing of these items … and how people proudly show off their creations! I guess it beats disposing the fixtures at the landfill … but it still seems slightly tacky to me.

BasinInnovation

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Dancing With A Dying Muse

The number of websites devoted to poetry runs in the millions. To date, I haven’t browsed through even 1% of such websites, but keeping in mind this is National Poetry Month, I’m usually interested in perusing poetry sites to read their unique presentations. (Many don’t translate well into English which limits my ability to enjoy them!)

MarksQuote

The above-pictured quote, however, didn’t come from a poetry website. I happened across this comment on Twitter first and because the quote intrigued me, I Googled it. Mr. Marks is an author, investment guru and CEO for Oaktree Capital Management … not exactly a person whose comments I would expect to touch on poetry.

Tweet 2014-04-10_1824

From what I can tell, this quote is an expanded version of a Confucius quote, with Mr. Marks having added the last four words. Though I would not pretend to consider my poetry great, I’m curious to know what this man considers “great poetry.” Is there a specific definition? As I wandered around the web attempting to locate a Marks-provided explanation, I failed to find one.

As with the definition for beauty, the essence of great poetry is, in my view, in the eye of the beholder. I think there’s some agreement regarding the poetry of Shakespeare and Donne and Poe and Frost and Wordsworth. (I could go on, but you get the picture.) What strikes me about all these poets is their poetry has survived over time. Is survival the key component that makes them great?

I happened across another blog post that intrigued me. The post was titled How To Write Good Rhyming Poetry. Notice, the title doesn’t proffer a possibility of writing great rhyming poetry, just good. Nevertheless, I bit, and found the post writer offered some excellent observations.

The post begins on something of a down note though, as the writer states:  rhyming poetry when “not done right can be kind of annoying.” Yep. Quite true. Second point of discouragement:  editors of many literary journals “eschew rhyme.” True again. The coup de grâce comes later in the post:  “Rhyming poetry does seem to be a dying art.” Bulls-eye, no question.

Knowing what I know, I can’t (and won’t) argue with this writer’s perspective. But none of this will dissuade me from continuing to write rhymed poetry. (Truly, I don’t believe the blogger intended to dissuade anyone, simply to make the points about rhymed poetry.) Toward the end of the post, the writer states:  “The choice is yours.” Yep.

Today’s poem is … wait for it … a rhymed poem! Written many years ago, I never expected to find a place to use it, but this does seem the perfect spot. The poem appears to be a rebuttal to the aforementioned author of that particular writersrelief.com post, but that would be impossible since it was written long before I had access to the worldwide web.

I simply knew (way back when) that I was swimming upstream as a poet who enjoys (and writes) rhyming poetry. If rhymed poetry is a dying art … well … I suspect I’ll do my part to keep it on life support as long as I have the ability.

FlimsyWhimsy

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Goodbye … For Now

mamababyA young couple in our church recently delivered their first child only to give him up to death four short hours after he arrived. (I heard about their situation via our church’s prayer list. I don’t personally know them.)

Before this child’s birth, his parents had been alerted he suffered from a specific physical condition, Potter Syndrome. This is a condition about which I know very little other than what I’ve read on various medical websites.

These parents were relieved to know of their son’s illness before he was born. This knowledge allowed them to prepare themselves (1) to love on this child during the short hours of his life, and (2) to trust God to supply in abundance the grace sufficient for this trial. But their present grief is surely an overwhelming heartache. It is beyond my comprehension … and yet I grieve with them through their loss.

I would not wish to minimize the traumatic void this couple (and their extended family) will experience throughout the rest of their lives. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Harding describes such grief as “… orders of sorrow, any one of which alone would have wrenched us from our fragile orbits around each other.” A child’s death disorders the universe as nothing else can do. 

More than a decade ago, my eldest daughter miscarried what would have been her second child. At the time of that loss (a loss for all of us in her family), I wrote the sonnet below. Speaking directly to my unborn grandchild was an attempt on my part to grieve and set this event into perspective in my head and heart.

As in my sister’s death, based in my hope in Jesus Christ, I have assurance I’ll meet this child one day. Boy or girl, I’m confident this baby is safe in the arms of my Savior. Even in the loss of a child, that’s a hope we can boldly and thankfully cherish!

Although this sonnet has a somber tone, I offer it as another token for National Poetry Month. Because I believe goodbye in this world isn’t goodbye forever, I’ve posted the poem here not to engender sadness but rather to celebrate the brief lives of God’s children who are called into his presence … on a timeline different than what we mortals had considered appropriate. (I need to remind myself often:  God’s timeline is perfect.)

DearLittleOne

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